At this spring’s CalArts Board of Trustees meeting, 14 much admired, acclaimed, and longtime faculty members were awarded emeritus status in recognition of their contributions to CalArts. Each having retired in 2021, the list of newly designated faculty emeriti are:
Living in Los Angeles for most of his life, scholar and filmmaker Thom Andersen’s knowledge and love of the city has deeply informed his work, most notably in his widely praised study of its representation in movies, Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), which was voted one of the 50 Best Documentaries of All Time in a Sight & Sound critics’ poll. Andersen made his first short films as a student of USC and UCLA in the 1960s and 1970s, joining CalArts as a regular faculty member in 1987. He served as both associate dean in the School of Film/Video and founding director of the Program in Film and Video.
Since joining CalArts in 2001, Karen Baxter has served as librarian of the Schools of Art and Film/Video. During her 20-year tenure, she oversaw the development and advancement of the arts collections at CalArts, including the Moving Image Collection, and chaired the technical advisory committee for CalArts’ only projection theater for digital cinema. Baxter also managed the creation of digital collections of CalArts Institute Archives materials, making the collection available to researchers world-wide, leading to the expanded use of these materials in numerous publications and exhibitions and greatly increasing the visual presence of CalArts and its unique pedagogy.
Jessica Bronson joined the CalArts faculty in 2001, an internationally acclaimed artist, noted for gallery installations combining sculptural elements with video projections and other sources of moving images. From 2011 to 2014, she served as co-director of the Art Program in the School of Art. Her leadership in the School of Art resulted in the reimagining of Foundation courses, the development of 12 new courses, and the revitalization of the ceramics spaces. During her two decades at CalArts, she championed underrepresented groups for admission and supported their retention and success.
Joining CalArts as a technical faculty member in 1994, Robert Dansby served as the director of the Print and Media Lab from 2001 to 2021 and established artserve.calarts.edu as a tutorial resource. In the Print and Media Lab, Dansby ensured that every possible technique was represented and teachable—from the most current techniques to the venerated ones that lie at the roots of all print-related media. He also made updates to lab equipment to make it fully ADA accessible, enabling all students to participate in exposure units, developing, and screen printing. As a printmaker and filmmaker, Dansby has exhibited internationally, with work in the collections of The Getty, LACMA, Hammer Museum, and more.
Leslie Dick first joined CalArts as a Mellon Fellow in Critical Writing in 1991 and then as a regular faculty member in the School of Art in 1992. From 1995 to 2005 and 2011 to 2012, she served as co-director of the Art Program. During her 30 years of service to CalArts, she pushed artistic dialogue to a different level, through essays, talks, and exhibitions catalogs, often in collaboration with other CalArtians; served on the editorial board of X-TRA Quarterly, the longest running art publication in Los Angeles; produced an impressive list of novels and short stories; and served as a senior critic at the Yale School of Art.
Actress, dance and movement specialist Heather Ehlers joined the CalArts School of Theater Acting faculty in 2001. In her teaching practice, Ehlers focused on movement for actors, bringing a robust knowledge of Yoga, Conscious Dance of 5Rhythms, and Open Floor Movement to the CalArts curriculum. She has studied with master teachers of movement and dance and taught courses on conscious movement all over the world, expanding CalArts international presence. A professional actress for more than 35 years, her acting resume includes productions at Lincoln Center, Arena Stage, the Mark Taper Forum, and South Coast Repertory Theatre, as well as numerous international tours.
Since becoming a faculty member in 1989, Charles Gaines has worked tirelessly to promote diversity at CalArts. When it was an oppositional position, he was a key figure in persuading the administration to hire a provost for equity and diversity leading to the office for equity, diversity and inclusion we now have. He has often single-handedly recruited African American students to study at CalArts, many of whom have gone on to become important artists and educators themselves. In 2020, Gaines provided the initial donation to establish a fellowship to provide critical scholarship support for Black students in the Institute’s MFA Art program: the Charles Gaines Fellowship. One of the most celebrated artists of his generation, Gaines is a leading practitioner of conceptualism, celebrated for his works on paper and acrylic glass, photographs, drawings, musical compositions, and installations. His work is collected internationally, by institutions such as MoMA, LACMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Gaines was the 2019 recipient of the Edward MacDowell Medal.
From 1992 to 2021, Chandra Khan was instrumental in the development and restructuring of the curriculum of the School of Critical Studies. This work led to the elevation of the “division of critical studies” department to full school status as the School of Critical Studies. More than 20 years later, the curriculum categories and requirements she worked to create remain the foundation for Critical Studies BFA coursework today. In her teaching practice, Khan developed and taught a number of interdisciplinary courses concentrating on nonwestern cultures, politics and aesthetics, and artistic, cultural, and religious diversity. As part of her dedication to global perspectives and experiential learning, she organized several highly successful trips with CalArts students and represented CalArts at events both locally and internationally, especially in China, Japan, India, and the Middle East.
Joe La Barbera
Joe La Barbera’s universal reputation and prestige have served as a powerful recruitment draw for The Herb Alpert School of Music for nearly 30 years. In his time at CalArts, La Barbera has helped graduate dozens of students who have gone on to successful careers in music as both performers and educators. His formal duties included major and non-major lessons on drum set, performing in and coaching jazz ensembles, and teaching jazz history for almost 25 years. An internationally admired musician, composer, and drummer, La Barbera has played with Chuck Mangione, Bill Evans, and Tony Bennett, has more than 250 recordings, has won the LACMA/LA Jazz Treasure Award, and appears in music encyclopedias as an exemplar artist in his field.
Since joining the CalArts faculty in 2005, Francesca Penzani has been instrumental in the development and integration of multidisciplinary practices in The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, especially the use of video. She has created classes such as Dance Film, CineDance, and Advanced Dance Image Project, as well as the WinterSession course, PLAY LAB, an interdisciplinary, collaborative laboratory with participants from all the schools of CalArts as well as alumnx. Among her teaching innovations, Penzani implemented video editing practices for archival purposes, training MFA and BFA dance students to become video operators and live editors/directors. Professionally, Penzani’s dances and dance videos have won numerous awards and been screened throughout the world.
Michael Scroggins has two CalArts degrees and has spent 45 years as a faculty member, serving as director of the Computer Animation labs from 1994 to 2013. He has been at the forefront of tectonic shifts in technology in the last half century, including teaching one of the first courses in 3D computer graphics in the early 1980s. Much of Scroggins’ work has focused on regularly developing and innovating technologies in the School of Film/Video, from early CGI computers to the recent VR and motion capture set-ups. His video works have been widely screened internationally, with his own VR project, Anaphorium, a VR space for three- dimensional active drawing, planned for release. Scroggins is retiring from the CalArts faculty in Spring 2022.
Maureen Selwood taught full time in the program for Experimental Animation from Fall of 1991 until her retirement in the Spring of 2021. Initially invited to teach by Jules Engel, the founder of the program of Experimental Animation, she went on to serve as program director herself for five years. During her 30 years at CalArts, she emphasized practice-led courses and workshops and focused on the expansion of teachers in the department. Professionally, her animated films have screened all over the world and been selected by the Academy of Motion Pictures for preservation. This year, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences Visual History Program conducted a filming of Maureen’s oral history documenting her life as a filmmaker.
During his 16 years as full-time faculty and three years as adjunct faculty, Paul Vester is responsible for instituting some of the major components that shape the Experimental Animation program today. Serving as program director from 2006 to 2011, he developed the MFA1 First Year Shorts class, which is in many ways the foundation of the current graduate experience, created the structure of the BFA curriculum, and added courses to support instruction on digital tools. Vester also oversaw the redesign of the A115 space to make room for more students. Prior to joining CalArts, Vester worked as an animator in London for 25 years. His films have screened at major festivals internationally and he was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2003.
With both a BFA and MFA from CalArts, Darrell Walters became a technical faculty member in 1995 and served as the director of the Photography and Media Facilities for more than a quarter of a century. His work included directing research and development, coordinating 17 major renovations projects, including the reconstruction and rehabilitation after the Northridge earthquake, and the creation of digital photography spaces and equipment. Additionally, Walters taught students, served as the Photography and Media facilitator for Community Art Partnership (CAP), and developed and created a Federal Work-study program with CalArts: the Historical Photographs/Digital Archivist position for the Elaine Fetterman Collection. Serving as an unofficial ambassador outside the school community, Walters has logged more than 1,750 volunteer hours with the Antelope Valley Indian Californian State Historic Park Museum and facilitated community outreach programs across the Antelope Valley.